Confirmation Hearing for CMS Acting Administrator

CMS logoOne-time nurse Marilyn Tavenner is expected to win Senate approval to become the confirmed administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  While Tavenner has been acting as administrator of the agency since being nominated by President Barack Obama after the December 2011 resignation of her predecessor, Dr. Donald Berwick, the Senate Finance Committee never held a nomination hearing in 2012, prompting the president to renominate her this February and the committee to hold its hearing yesterday.

While Republican politicians have dug their heels in against several of Obama’s nominations, as well as against the Affordable Care Act (referred to as Obamacare), Tavenner is not considered to be a polarizing figure and was introduced at the hearing by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  The Republican Congressman also recently endorsed the White House’s BRAIN Initiative in a rare show of bipartisanship.  Cantor cannot vote for Tavenner in the hearing but has referred to her as “eminently qualified” for the position, and his strong support could influence his fellow party members.  The committee’s ranking Republican member, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, while opposed to the ACA, is also in favor of the nomination and agreed that Tavenner is “up to the challenge” of running CMS, though he did address issues with the operational and budgetary details for the Health Insurance Exchanges (HIEs) established by the ACA.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) raised concerns about a potential leak by CMS to political intelligence firm Height Analytics LLC about pending Medicare Advantage rate increases before the administration officially announced the news.  “When information leaks from the administration that has the ability to cause significant market movement,” he told the nominee, “it is wrong and quite possibly illegal.”  Tavenner responded that this was a “huge issue” that is currently being investigated by both the CMS and the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Grassley did, however, also tell her, “I think you’ll make a fine administrator.”

Tavenner started her career as a nurse at Johnson-Wills Hospital in Richmond, Virginia in 1981, employed by Hospital Corporation of America (HCA).  She climbed the corporate ladder to become the hospital’s chief executive officer in 1993 and continued in leadership positions for HCA through 2005 before resigning  and then serving as the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources for four years, then joining CMS.  A possible conflict of interest caused by annual retirement payments of over $160K to Tavenner from HCA was addressed when the candidate told the committee that she recuses herself from decisions related to HCA specifically.

Medicare reimbursement rate changes can be accounted for in medical billing software like Lytec, Medisoft, or McKesson Practice Choice.  Reach out to a Microwize healthcare technology consultant for more information.